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Uphill battle awaits Australia

After a one-sided third day at Lord's, editor Chris Devine assesses the size of the task facing Australia as they seek to prevent England from taking a 2-0 lead in the Investec Ashes.

Thirty-two years ago today England pulled off the greatest fightback in Ashes history to win the 1981 Headingley Test.

Prior to the heroics of Sir Ian Botham and Bob Willis, bookmakers were famously offering 500/1 on a home victory in Leeds.

Australia can still be backed at a much shorter price to prevail in the present encounter at Lord's, but it would seem an effort of Botham-esque proportions is now required if the tourists are to cancel out their series-opening defeat.

Day three of this summer's second Investec Ashes Test provided a somewhat surreal experience for viewers, like myself, who grew up witnessing a lengthy run of painful reversals at Australia's hands.

Despite my less than youthful appearance (barely a day goes by when I'm not mistaken for Rob Brydon, a man 21 years my senior), I was born in September 1986, just weeks before an England team led by Mike Gatting embarked on a successful tour Down Under.

Many of my first cricketing memories are therefore derived from the subsequent eight Test rubbers in which the famous little urn was secured by Australia with varying degrees of ease.

Childhood perspectives can be difficult to amend in later life, which may help to explain why - despite England's recent Ashes triumphs, including three sensational innings victories in 2010-11 - I found the events of yesterday so remarkable.

It was not so much the position Australia ultimately found themselves in, trailing by 566 at stumps, yet more the drop in intensity shown by the fielding side as the day wore on.

Indeed, there was a period towards the end of the evening session where Michael Clarke's men, having delivered an inadequate batting display 24 hours earlier, appeared to be simply awaiting a merciful declaration that failed to materialise as Joe Root pressed on to 178 not out.

For a person raised on a diet of Ashes misery, this was an extraordinary sight, prompting joy and a hint of bewilderment.

Of course, now is certainly no time for gloating. Australia's squad contains many proud men and much work still lies ahead if a 2-0 lead is to be secured ahead of the third Test at Emirates Old Trafford, something Alastair Cook et al will be more aware of than anyone else.

However, a country beaten 4-0 on their last Test tour is now staring down the barrel of a sixth successive loss and fourth in a row against their old rivals.

The anniversary of Headingley '81 - not to mention last week's incredible match at Trent Bridge - should serve us a reminder that anything can happen in this most intriguing of sporting battles.

England will not be letting up, but Australia don't half need something special right now.

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